Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, greeting students of Springer Memorial Secondary School at the colloquium. (C. Pitt/BGIS)??

Young women and men have been urged to participate in shaping new policies for social and attitudinal change that would tackle discriminatory attitudes and gender stereotypes.

While addressing the opening of a colloquium today to commemorate International Women’s Day, Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, said such programmes should "reduce the remaining injustices which exist".

Mr. Lashley told his audience at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre that young women and men made up 44 per cent of the world’s population and they were largely an untapped resource as agents of change for advancing gender equality, peace, development and human rights.

He noted that his Ministry recognises the value of youth to the society and had taken steps to address the issues they face through the development of a National Youth Policy.
"The Ministry has also implemented a number of programmes such as Endless Possibilities, a youth mentorship and job attachment programme; as well as a parenting programme which will provide the participants with marketable and personal development skills and harness the creative and other abilities of our youth for the development of our country," he stated.

Mr. Lashley lauded the Bureau of Gender Affairs and the National Organisation of Women for hosting the half-day discussion and suggested that this model of young girls engaging their seniors should be replicated across other groups in society. "Our

young boys should also engage their seniors… We believe that by working together women of all ages can help each other to grow, maximise their strengths and fulfill their potential as change agents," he surmised.

Mr. Lashley pointed out that women in Barbados between the ages of 15 and 19 continue to outnumber men in that group who become infected with HIV and he listed poverty, domestic violence and gender inequalities relating to the economic situation as additional issues affecting women.

However, the Minister stressed that Barbadian women had a lot to celebrate since they had established themselves as leaders at all levels of society and in the diaspora. "Right here in Barbados, in Government, our churches, the board rooms, at school, university, on the athletic track, literally everywhere, our women continue to make us proud. You young women present today have good solid examples to follow, and yes, you should emulate their excellent examples.

"You have a great opportunity to seize these moments. Follow their careers, follow their lives and take from them what you need to inspire your own lives. Do not compromise your principles. Be champions of innovation, diversity and sound morals. Be champions of gender equality," he urged.

International Women’s Day for 2012 was celebrated under the theme Connecting Girls – Inspiring Futures.


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